Water and wastewater services are just a few of the basic (and very important) services that keep our community running, but the intricacies of the process it takes to keep our potable water clean and our wastewater separate are rarely understood. As new City Council members and LMUD Board/Committee members are seated in Lakeway, LMUD offers them a chance to take a tour of the facilities that handle our area’s water services since, as Doug Howell, a recently elected Lakeway City Council member put it, “Most of our neighbors in Lakeway expect their Council Members to be experts in all facets of everything.”
New Lakeway City Council Members Sanjeev Kumar, Doug Howell, and Gretchen Vance were sworn in on May 20. On May 30, LMUD hosted two tours at which City Council Members Kumar, Howell, Steve Smith, and Louis Mastrangelo, as well as LMUD Engineering & Operations Committee (E&O) Committee Member Paula Crowley and LMUD Board of Directors Members Vice President Jerry Hietpas and Director John Sayre were in attendance. The tour was guided by LMUD General Manager Earl Foster. Each tour lasted approximately three and a half hours.
LMUD tours focus on the process it takes to provide the Lakeway community with reliably clean, potable water and manage the treatment of wastewater. For potable water, it starts by moving raw water out of Lake Travis, a source controlled by LCRA, to our water treatment plant and into elevated storage tanks that provide adequate pressure to bring it to residential and commercial locations. As LMUD customers use this water, separate buried pipes carry it to our wastewater treatment plant then into holding ponds where it either evaporates or is used for our reuse water program, irrigating many of the golf courses, City medians, commercial, and some residential landscaping throughout the community. LMUD’s cedar track on Stewart Road off RR 620 also serves as a location to disperse the reuse water as needed since Texas’ water regulation agency, TCEQ, bans all water providers around the Highland lakes from discharging it back into the lake. All operations are under surveillance through a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control system that our water operators have access to 24 hours a day. As examples, during the tour, Water Operator Kyle Wilds II demonstrated how he was able to turn on the filtration system from his cell phone and Water Supervisor Raf Mendoza projected on a monitor the water levels in all storage tanks throughout the system.
“I think the community can feel confident that something we all take for granted (opening a faucet and having water) is being well managed and maintained. And as nasty as it is necessary, our wastes are being taken care of with attention to detail.”
– Paula Crowley, LMUD Engineering & Operations Committee (E&O) Committee Member
The seemingly biggest surprise for those in attendance during the May 30th tour was the expanse and number of facilities LMUD operates throughout our community in order to bring water, wastewater, and recycled water services to over 10,000 Lakeway residents. Kumar said, “Having been a resident of Lakeway for 13 years without really having the knowledge of the various facilities that Lakeway MUD has (including the retention pond by my neighborhood) was an eye opener for me.”
Tour attendees also cited being impressed with general operations and facility maintenance. Crawley reported, “I was most impressed by the caliber of the employees. It seems they are very committed to doing their jobs well. I was also very impressed with the apparent good maintenance of the facilities. It appears that LMUD has good standards for maintenance.” The wastewater treatment plant was the biggest surprise. Standing atop one of the tanks of sludge, Sayre commented, “It’s remarkably low odor” to which Hietpas replied, “Yes, look at the neighborhood around us. On only very few occasions do we ever get complaints.” Taking environmental responsibility one step further, LMUD’s Water Treatment office building is Gold-level LEED certified. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a national recognition of quality and achievement in green building where energy- and resource-efficient standards are met.
As Crawly put it, “I think the community can feel confident that something we all take for granted (opening a faucet and having water) is being well managed and maintained. And as nasty as it is necessary, our wastes are being taken care of with attention to detail.” Smith added, “We are receiving quality water/waste services run by highly trained, environmentally-responsible operators.”
Unfortunately, due to constraints in time, resources, and security measures, LMUD is not able to offer these tours to the general public at this time.